The Right Moves

There was a time when it looked like the floor was literally going to be pulled out from under young people in

Stephanie Rissler teaches a beginning hip hop dance class in the basement of Vermillion City Hall. I realize that with these little girls, its just about moving and having fun to some of the music that is in the now and is hip it doesnt matter if youre 5 or youre 25 or 35, she said. Dancing is fun no matter how old you are. (Photo by David Lias)

the Vermillion community interested in learning the art of dance.

Steps were quickly taken, however, to preserve the dance instruction in town, and during the process, something wonderful happened.

The number of people kids of all ages and adults interested in taking part in local dance instruction has grown.

The dance classes are made possible by a cooperative effort of several local organizations, ranging from the Parks and Recreation Department and the Vermillion Area Arts Council, to Vermillion city government, which has offered a new home for the classes the basement of city hall.

When Heart & Soul Fitness Center closed down, most of our dancers were taking part in classes there. We had some anxious parents calling, wondering what was going to happen to the program, and we had a meeting and as group we decided we wanted to continue to offer dance classes even though our group is technically without a home, said Paige Keck, president and founder of the Vermillion Area Dance Foundation, which serves as the umbrella organization that has helped organize the cooperative push to retain the classes.

The current round of dance instruction began in Vermillion the last week of January. We held registrations the week of Feb. 7, and now we have over 75 dancers in 10 classes, and another class will be added soon, Keck said. We started off with 42 dancers at the end of December, and we lost a few, and weve gained a bunch more.

The continuation and subsequent growth of the dance program for the communitys youth can be credited to both parents and the young dancers.

It was a combination we had parents who wanted to see the dance program keep going, and I think part of the push came from children who didnt like the news that they wouldnt have dance classes after the first of the year, Keck said.

The young dancers range in age from 3 to 14. A clogging class is offered for adults. There are five instructors teaching beginning and advanced hip hop, two sections of pre-ballet, beginning, intermediate and advanced ballet, beginning and advanced tap, and clogging.

Soon a new class will be offered ballroom dancing, offered mainly for high schoolers and adults as the prom season approaches.

Keck said Vermillion is fortunate to be the home of many people who have a background in dance and can offer their services to teach a wide regimen of classes to both youth and adults.

We have the University of South Dakota, so a few of our instructors are students there, Keck said. And we have community members who have a history of dancing and teaching dance.

The way that were offering classes it keeps the doors open for more teachers to come, and even some dancers with professional experience, said Adrienne Lewis, who teaches intermediate and advanced ballet and has two children taking dance classes. Were also trying to put together a summer workshop, too.

The inspiration to continue dancing came from my girls, and that also inspired me to teach and pass on the knowledge that I have to other people, she said. I learned dance while growing up in Vermillion, and I know sometimes it can be more difficult in a smaller town to come up with these resources, but the way were putting this program together I can just see it becoming stronger than ever.

Law has four daughters and one son taking part in the community dance classes. They are learning more, he said, than simply how to move gracefully on a dance floor.

There are lot of lessons that they learn, and one of them is discipline learning how to take on something thats challenging and learn it and become talented at it, Law said. It really takes time, effort and commitment.

He also welcomes the opportunity for his home-schooled children to become acquainted with kids their own age in Vermillion, and to be challenged both physically and mentally.

Theres a great deal of memorization, of learning the routines, Law said, and all kids hit that awkward spell when they hit puberty. This is a chance for them to get to know their body and how their body moves.

At home, theyre practicing, and then the days they come here, theyre learning how their bodies work in this space, and as they grow, theyll continue to know how their bodies work.

I think the biggest benefit of dance is to help build up strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and grace in the kids, said Marie Dahlhoff, who has three daughters, ages 8, 7 and 4, participating in the dance classes. Overall, its just a great activity for them to be involved in.

The learning never stops. Even after a days dance lesson is complete and the children return home.

My girls, when they are doing their chores around the house, Law said, theyre dancing. They are doing different steps they learned in class; and so its like a ballet in my house every day.

This is definitely not a once-a-week thing. It something that changes them every day, he said.

The future, which once looked dim for the dance classes, is much brighter, especially since the citys Park and Recreation Department has agreed to sponsor the dance program beginning this fall.

When the previous studio closed, I know I and a lot of other parents were wondering where to take this program now, Law said. We wanted something that has some staying power and when we got to talking about this, we realized this is exactly what we were looking for.

This is going to be a program that we, as parents, can make what we want mainly whats best for our kids, he said. Thats something that no other program can offer. This is exactly what we want our kids to be in, because they are going to learn the dance that they want to learn in the atmosphere thats best for their learning, dictated by the parents who love them the most.

Parents have decided that, despite the brief interruption in their instruction, the young dancers will still perform a recital. It is tentatively scheduled for May 1 at the Vermillion High School Auditorium.

Its really incredibly important to our dancers, Keck said. They start in the fall, talking about the recital, and what costumes to pick out, and what music to dance to. Its really a big deal for our dancers to have an opportunity to perform.

Stephanie Rissler, who works a varied schedule as a producer at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, finds time to teach hip hop classes to youngsters on Friday evenings.

Ive been teaching this particular class since September, she said while catching her breath at the conclusion of instructing a class of grade-school-aged youngsters, but Ive been teaching dance and doing choreography since I was in high school.

Rissler taught dance while growing up and attending college, but stepped away from the activity once she and her husband began their family. Her daughter helped bring her back into the role of dance teacher once more.

When my daughter got into dance, she liked it but she was in classes for ballet and some of the softer dances, and I could tell she did not like that, Rissler said. The dance program at the time did not have anything like this (hip hop) so I offered my services, and it just sort of ballooned from there.

I realize that with these little girls, its just about moving and having fun to some of the music thats in the now and is hip. And for my daughter, its nice to be able to show her that it doesnt matter if youre 5 or youre 25 or 35, she said. Dancing is fun no matter how old you are. Thats really what it is all about for me.

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